The new year can’t come soon enough for cell phone users

Here’s hoping that all of our Techvibes readers still have their Y2K bomb shelters, even if they’ve been converted into military wine cellars, because it looks like the end of the world is coming on the stroke of midnight, if several stories about cellular safety and infrastructure are accurate.

First off, there will be a ten-minute period around midnight tonight when thousands, perhaps million of text messages are sent out from New Years revellers wishing each other a happy 2011. This ten-minute span will see triple the volume of text messages sent, and will result in SMS bandwidth being overloaded.

From The Vancouver Sun:

Don’t be surprised if that text message wishing Mom a happy New Year isn’t delivered until well into 2011, or doesn’t make it on the first try, especially if you’re in a crowded area.

Put simply, the current technology isn’t designed to flawlessly handle everyone sending a text message at the same time, despite continual improvements. It isn’t easy to keep up with the growing demand for bandwidth in a smart-phone-armed society.

“If money was no object … there still would be customers who would not get all their text messages precisely at 12:01 on New Year’s Day,” said Sprint spokesman John Taylor.

Beyond simple New Year inconveniences, there are two stories out today about cell phone safety. The first is for Rogers and Fido customers; hacker researchers in Germany demonstrated the security weaknesses of Rogers’ 2G cell network by intercepting and decrypting a phone call in under 20 seconds with a laptop and $100 in technology.

From Regina’s Leader-Post:

Speaking from Berlin, where he runs a research lab, Nohl said any phone carrier that relies on the older, 2G version of GSM technology is vulnerable. He said that network uses what’s called the A5/1 algorithm of encryption, which he says is outdated.

Sebastien Bouchard, a spokesperson for Rogers, confirmed that the company uses both A5/1, and the more sophisticated A5/3 encryption, which is used on its 3G network. Fido uses the same technology.

“There is no practical risk for customers on the network,” Bouchard said.

However, Nohl doubts that. He explained even if Rogers and Fido offer 3G capability, some of its phones are diverted to the 2G network, especially when network traffic is high.

And here’s a heads-up for Android users: a very sophisticated virus from China is infecting Android phones for unknown purposes. A report from Lookout Mobile Security said that only Android users who have downloaded Chinese apps seem to be at risk for the time being from the virus known as “Gemini.”

From Agence France-Presse:

The firm called the virus “the most sophisticated Android malware we’ve seen to date.”

“Once the malware is installed on a user’s phone, it has the potential to receive commands from a remote server that allow the owner of that server to control the phone,” Lookout said.

“Geinimi’s author(s) have raised the sophistication bar significantly over and above previously observed Android malware by employing techniques to obfuscate its activities.”

The motive for the virus was not clear, accoring the Lookout, which added that this could be used for anything from “a malicious ad-network to an attempt to create an Android botnet.”

But the company said the only users likely to be affected are those downloading Android apps from China.

The infected apps included repackaged versions sold in China of Monkey Jump 2, Sex Positions, President vs. Aliens, City Defense and Baseball Superstars 2010.

Happy new year, mobile users; here’s hoping 2011 is a little safer.